Spaghetti Meat Sauce
AKA Bolognese Sauce. I have been making this sauce since I started cooking. It’s your basic tomato based sauce with Italian spices and ground beef. It has undergone several changes over the years, all little tweaks to make it better. This is one of those recipes that you can customize to fit your own preferences or whims without loss of quality. You can leave the meat out. You can change the kind of meat you use. You can add mushrooms. Or leave out the carrots. (Yes, carrots. You’d be surprised at the sweetness they add.) To quote chef Michael Smith from The Food Network, (who likes to teach people how to cook without using a recipe), a recipe is a good place to start. So feel free to play with this. It’s a good place to start.
You will need to dice up all your vegetables: the onion, celery, carrots, bell pepper and garlic. While you are doing that, start browning your meat in a large saute pan over med-high heat. Break up the larger clumps of meat as best you can while it is cooking. Once the meat is nicely browned, pour it out onto a paper towel lined plate to drain the fat from the meat.
Pour about 1 tablespoon of a good olive oil into the pan and add the vegetables. I usually cook the onion and celery first, then add the bell pepper and carrot, then add the garlic at the very end and cook and stir for one minute more. Meanwhile, I have dumped my canned tomatoes, tomato paste, water and tomato sauce into a large pot. Dump the cooked veggies into the pot.
Dump the cooked meat into the sauce, then add all of the spices. I usually measure with my hand, but it’s about 2 teaspoons of both oregano and basil, 2 bay leaves, and one teaspoon of sugar. Let it simmer for at least one hour. Lid on if it is already the correct thickness, or leave the lid off if you want the sauce to thicken up. After it has simmered, taste and add more salt if needed.
The sauce is good as it is, and you can serve it this way and pass Parmesan cheese at the table. Or, you can stir in about 3 to 4 ounces of grated cheddar cheese just before serving. The cheese seems to take the harsh tomato taste away, and this is the way I always made my spaghetti sauce when my kids were little. They liked it better with cheese in it. So, you have a couple of choices. I still sometimes feel like having cheese in the sauce. It’s good either way.
A rich, thick tomato-based bolognese sauce.
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 2 mild Italian sausages, casings removed
- salt and pepper
- 1 Tbsp Olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced (red or green or some of each)
- 1 medium carrot, diced or shredded
- 3 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 1- 19 oz (540 ml) can diced tomatoes
- 1- 5 ½ oz (156 ml) can tomato paste, plus 2 cans water
- 1- 19 oz or larger can Hunts Thick ‘N Rich Tomato Sauce
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 2 bay leaves
- additional salt to taste, if needed
- 3-4 ounces old cheddar cheese, grated (optional)
- In large sauté pan over med-high heat, fry ground beef and sausage until you can see some browning on the meat, stirring and breaking up lumps with spatula as it cooks. Season with a sprinkling of salt and pepper as it cooks. Line large plate with several paper towels. Pour cooked meat onto plate and set aside to drain fat.
- Add olive oil to sauté pan, and turn down to medium. Cook and stir onions and celery until they start to become translucent. Then add bell pepper and cook for one minute; then add carrot a cook for another minute; last add the crushed garlic and stir constantly for one minute.
- Pour the canned tomatoes on top of the cooked vegetables. Add tomato paste, water, tomato sauce, oregano, basil and bay leaves. Stir well. Stir the cooked meat back into the tomato sauce. Turn down to simmer, and simmer at least one hour. (It gets better the longer it cooks). If the sauce is already the correct thickness, simmer with a lid on. If it is a bit watery, simmer with the lid off. Stir once in a while to make sure it isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- After an hour, taste and add salt if needed. Just before serving, add the grated cheddar. Or, you can leave out the cheddar for a more traditional Bolognese style sauce. My kids really loved it with the cheese in it, and I often still put it in. It’s good either way. Spoon sauce over cooked spaghetti. Pass Parmesan cheese at the table.
This is our family's "go-to" spaghetti sauce. Use it as a starting point to customize to your liking.